ALBANY, N.Y. – Lindsay Whalen meets her pen repeatedly against the notebook she is carrying, scoping her eyebrows while lying down. "Patience to the ball," she calls after turnover by Team Americas.
This is the first edition of the Aurora Games, and Whalen, a former WNBA star who is now the main coach of the women's basketball team in Minnesota, is training the American side against Team World. It is an exhibition game; the results have no real impact.
But if one thing we know about the former Olympic gold winner and WNBA four-off champion, it is a great Whalen to do competition – and to win. She meets every throw free of charge and repeatedly states "Pass the ball" when she sees a player who is too long.
"Fear, I am so glad I am not playing this game," Whalen said with a laugh at a news conference the day before the game.
"I can rebound during exercise now and that's it," she said with a wry smile.
The former guard left a point a year ago and then went into the role of the main coach. In conversation with ESPN before Thursday's match – 85-77 loss was discussed for Team Americas – Whalen, 37, what she misses about playing, how coaching helps her competitive side and her vision for the Golden Gophers bring out.
ESPN: What is your favorite about playing against playing, and vice versa?
Lindsay Whalen: The things I miss about playing are teamwork and friendship. You still get that as a coach, but as far as training is concerned, I like not being so bad after the games. Training is still part of the game you love, and it's great to have the players around. Events like this are fun because everyone is as good as each other and they are happy to be here, so there is lots of fun.
ESPN: Minnesota got its great start Last season, opening 12 consecutive wins, but finished 21-11 in total and 9-9 in the Big Ten. What are your expectations for the second season?
Whalen: The Big Ten is tough. I want to put an end to last year. I think I will be more prepared as a coach to deal with the intensity of the Big Ten season. We have a much more difficult non-conferencing schedule, which we think will be good as we will be preparing it for the Big Ten season. It is difficult to say a record or where we want to finish, but I want to do the NCAA competition. Many of our elders want to go back there. They managed to play in two [NCAA tournament] games [in 2018]. Last year we did the WNIT. I would love to do the next step and make the NCAA competition. That's definitely a big goal.
"I want to build a program where players really grow and learn. A safe place to go through time is very important in their lives when there is a lot of development."
Minnesota Coach Lindsay Whalen
ESPN: What is Your Vision for Minnesota?
Whalen: All the teams I had, all the successful teams I had, we worked well together, we valued each other as people first. I want to take that. I want to build a program where players really grow and learn. Having a safe place to go through a very important time in their lives when there is a lot of development.
I wish it will be the first place. I want to make sure we are familiar with [of that] and treat each other as good people first. And then when you go through danger and hard times during the season, when the band you have and when your team is like your family, the team will get you through that hard period, you know?
Each two seasons will have two, three or maybe even four lost streab, but if you have a family atmosphere you can count on each other and go through that time. If you do not, we could struggle, so yes [very important to build].
ESPN: What changes have you made since starting training as you start preparing for the second season?
Whalen: I think I have a better understanding of how I want to build practice and how I want things to come up and fall in October, how you want to build things so that your team is ready for games. . I have a much better understanding of what it looks like and what it means. My first year I was learning a lot and I'm sure I will continue to learn, but I certainly have a better understanding of the severity of the season and the things you want to build and what to look for. and expect.
ESPN: How is your competition as a player transferred to your coaching?
Whalen: You get a lot of that competitive spirit as a coach. You still want to win – at the end of the day it comes to you. You want to win the game, you want to make the necessary adjustments and put your team in the best possible place to win. You are still competing against the best coaches and the best players in the country.
ESPN: What do you think about recruiting? Is it challenging to recruit people against coaches and assistant coaches who have been doing for many years?
Whalen: Recruitment is about building relationships and getting to know people, and we hope you will share your vision and goal about how you want to run the program. But many recruiters are out there with lots of experience and wonderful seasons. It's tough, but another competitive challenge.
ESPN: What was the first time you went on a recruitment trip? Were you nervous?
Whalen: You go straight on and talk to people – I was a little nervous. Tell you about yourself, try to keep them informed. We hope they are open and want to talk to you.
The first time I recruited was a blur. I don't even remember who was there, but I said something like, "Hey, I coach." And I remember talking about my goals and my vision for the program and I walked thinking that I did a right job.
ESPN: How is this summer – the first one not to play in the WNBA – you? How was it like an audience and that your friends and former staff are on the court?
Whalen: Looking at my friends and [former] it's very fun. It was fun to watch the series and see everyone competing. Will I lose it? Yes, parts of it. But I was ready to do when I left. I miss the friendship, the staff, the competitiveness, the crowd and the energy from the crowd. Exercise – I really help. I'd love to practice as a player!
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